Granite countertops are completely natural, exceedingly durable, and come in a range of colors that meet pretty much every kitchen design preference.
Granite exudes a level of luxury that almost no other countertop material is able to match except for quartz. Thanks to its strength, granite is also easy to maintain and can withstand everyday kitchen activity, unlike many other countertop materials.
However, granite is not invincible or bullet-proof. This, therefore, begs the question: Do granite countertops need to be sealed?
Granite Countertop Sealing – Why So Much Ambiguity?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to granite countertop sealing. One says that granite countertops don’t need any sealing since they are naturally resistant to stain. The other believes that granite is not a fool-proof material and needs a shield of its own in order for it to look fresh and spotless for years together.
Granite countertops do not need sealing. A sealant would only be necessary if your particular granite slab was not as durable as the regular slabs used.
In fact, there are quite a few benefits to sealing a granite countertop. Before we throw more light on why sealing helps though, let’s clear the air on why there are so many contradicting viewpoints on the topic.
According to the Marble Institute of America, many granite stones don’t need sealing. But they also say that applying sealants on granite countertops is a practice commonly done in most homes. See the ambiguity here?
Despite stating that granite countertop sealants are quite commonly used, the institute doesn’t necessarily clarify whether these sealants are necessary or detrimental to the stone. At the same time, the MIA also asserts sealing doesn’t make granite stain-proof, instead, it renders the stone resistant to stain.
How Tough is Granite?
Granite is an igneous rock that’s mostly comprised of feldspar and quartz, along with tiny amounts of several trace minerals. On the Mohs hardness scale of 1 to 10, granite usually comes in at level 6, which renders the stone relatively hard. In other words, it will not scratch even if you run a knife blade across its surface. Marble, on the other hand, usually comes in at 4 or 5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which explains why it’s not the most scratch-resistant material inside a kitchen.
But does scratch resistance imply stain resistance? Though granite is extremely strong, it’s not completely sealed by nature. In other words, it’s porous. Quartz composite, a material which is usually considered in direct competition with granite in the kitchen countertop space, is stronger and also completely sealed. Quartz, unlike granite, is man-made. Besides being 90 percent quartz, quartz composite also comprises resin and pigment. These different particles are then bound using significant heat and pressure.
Even though granite composition has quartz, the quartz percentage in granite is considerably less when compared to quartz composite. Quartz countertops, therefore, are a lot more stain-resistant compared to granite countertops and need far less maintenance than granite.
Do All Liquids Stain a Susceptible Granite Countertop?
As mentioned before, not all granite countertops stain. That said, if the stone variety in your kitchen is susceptible to tainting, you should know that some fluids would cause it more damage than others. Though water can get easily soaked in by porous granite, it would not leave behind a visible colored spot like other liquids may. The affected area could darken a bit due to the dampness, but once the water evaporates, the granite would look fresh again.
Generally, liquids that don’t evaporate or could leave behind stains are oils. Colored liquids – such as red wine and grape juice – and fat and cooking oil could all stain a stone countertop. Pizza grease could become a threat too, particularly when it soaks into the pizza box’s bottom and moves onto the countertop. Therefore, it is important to attend to those oily splashes or spills immediately.
Why Apply a Granite Countertop Sealant and How Does It Help?
A granite countertop marred by liquid permeation would not just make the stone lose its integrity, but it would also make it look less attractive. By applying a granite countertop sealant, your granite countertop would be better equipped to fight spills and dirt. If there is no sealing, it could become susceptible to staining and etching. Sealants, on the contrary, would cause fluids to blob on the surface and mitigate any likely taints.
How do these sealants work? Contrary to common perception, or what the name suggests, granite countertop sealants do not create a seal or coat atop a granite countertop. While there are some granite sealants that do work like a varnish or coat of paint, true sealers or the highest quality ones work as impregnators.
Also called penetrating sealers, these impregnating sealers seep into and beneath the surface of the countertop and safeguard the granite from within. They do so while still permitting minuscule pores of granite to facilitate moisture vapor escape. Impregnator sealers reduce the stone’s pore size by filling them with solids that are usually made of resin. These resins are tiny enough to mitigate the complete blockage of pores. When granite or any stone’s pores are blocked completely, moisture vapor would accumulate within the stone causing it to saturate with moistness. If left untreated, the dampness could lead to issues such as iron oxidation, spalling, and efflorescence.
Testing Whether Your Granite Countertop Requires Sealing
To ascertain whether your granite countertop need sealing, trickle water onto the stone. If the water gets soaked in, it’s time for to seal them. If the water droplets bead up just fine, the sealing can wait. Be aware that the absorption doesn’t happen within seconds. It takes more than a few minutes. Therefore, don’t jump to conclusions right away. If the countertop hasn’t absorbed the water for 30 minutes straight, you may call off the testing and come back a few months later to test the stone again.
You may do this testing at the time of purchasing the granite countertop also so that you could be absolutely sure about the granite’s porosity levels. This should help you assess the stone’s characteristics and what its maintenance requirements would be. If you are really particular about the stone’s stain resistance qualities and would like to avoid sealing it, buy a granite countertop that doesn’t etch and has an extremely low absorbency rate.
Sealing a Granite Countertop
Once you have determined that you want to seal or reseal your granite countertops, you’re going to need:
- A high-quality granite countertop cleaner
- A granite sealer designed to resist oil- and water-based stains
- Some cleaning rags
Choosing the right material for cleaning a granite countertop is important since it determines how well the sealant sets in. It’s like cleaning your face before you apply moisturizing cream or makeup. If the cleansing is not done properly, the moisturizer won’t get properly absorbed by your skin or the makeup won’t look the way it should. (At least that’s what my wife tells me.)
For cleaning a granite countertop, some dish soap and warm water will usually suffice. The warmth of the warm water helps with effective cleaning. The exact mix of soap and water does not really matter so much. Just make sure the water is a bit sudsy. After having thoroughly wiped the surface, dip another piece of clean cloth in pure water so that you can easily wipe away any soap residue before applying the sealant.
Make sure the countertop is completely dry before you begin sealing. Even if your granite looks completely dry to the naked eye, give it a few minutes. If the granite has any form of water cover, the sealant will not adhere to the surface the way it should. Therefore, don’t hurry through the process.
Once the countertop has been thoroughly cleaned, evenly spray the sealant over the whole granite surface. Make sure all the countertop areas are covered. For an even coverage, a sealant in spray bottle form work really well.
Generously spray the sealant over your entire countertop. The, wipe the sprayed sealant with a microfiber cloth to spread the sealant well. Work in small sections, and apply at least two layers of the sealant. Apply another layer after the existing coat has completely dried. After 15 minutes, use a clean cloth again to wipe any excess sealant.
In places where you have sinks, faucets, and stovetops, apply the sealant only after having installed the countertop. Remember the sealing must be done before you put in the appliances since you will not be able to access these spots later. Seeping liquids, however, will be able to.
How Often Should You Seal and Reseal a Granite Countertop?
Granite, as I mentioned already, is porous. However, its sponginess is not the same across the board,. Likewise, different types of granite stones can have unique absorbency traits. The way the granite countertop has been polished determines how water or stain-resistant the stone is. For instance, the glossy variants are much more capable of keeping liquids out compared to the granite surfaces that are smooth and soft.
Generally, granite countertops should usually be sealed once per year. Some countertops, however, could require sealing more than once a year. And some other granite countertops will not require sealing for at least three years. Therefore, don’t take a blanket approach when it comes to sealing a granite countertop. Ask your fabricator directly for specific information about your unique slabs.
The manner in which you maintain your granite countertop can also help you identify how often to seal your granite. If your countertops are frequently subjected to chemicals, then that could weaken or wear away the sealant, which would necessitate a lot more sealing than usual.
Believe it or not, the color of your granite countertops can also determine your sealing frequency. Dark granite colors such as coffee brown, black, and tan-brown are denser compared to light-colored granite. This increased density renders the granite less leaky and less prone to staining risk. Moreover, dark granite hides minor stains and imperfections a lot more effectively than lighter granite colors.
Worth noting, granite (along with any natural stone) cannot be oversealed. This means that if you seal your granite a lot more frequently than needed, you are not damaging the stone in any way. Therefore, if you want to err on the side of caution, it’s perfectly fine to seal and reseal your granite countertop as often as you’d like.
Frequent sealing safeguards the stone’s surface and offers it long-lasting resistance against stains, etching, and soil build-up. Just make sure the sealant you use is high-quality.
How to Choose a High-Quality Granite Countertop Sealer
In addition to the granite stone itself, the kind of granite countertop sealer you buy also plays a role in how frequently you’ll need to do the sealing. With advancements in nanotechnologies and polymers, granite countertop sealers have evolved and become a lot more long-lasting and effective than before, reducing the requirement for annual applications. Therefore, look for sealants with improved chemical technology that enable the sealant to create a stronger and more permanent bond on the stone.
Long-lasting sealants usually are a bit expensive, but they more than make up for their price with their longevity. When your granite countertop first arrives, it most likely comes sealed. However, the sealant typically used by the contractor or seller would be siloxane-based or low-quality silicon granite sealer. These sealers are quite common within the granite countertop space and need reapplication at least once every six months.
The best granite countertop sealants would be effective for at least a couple of years (if not more). They are invariably fluorocarbon aliphatic sealers. Make a note: the majority of the good brands of granite countertop sealer have the fluorocarbon aliphatic resin in them. Like all sealers, these plug up the pores in the stone. However, unlike the lower quality sealers, they won’t evaporate or undergo any kind of natural degradation.
Granite is tough, durable, resistant to etching and staining, and won’t scorch even if you place a burning-hot pan onto it (which I don’t recommend doing). This means most granite countertops do not need to be sealed.
However, a sealant offers your granite an additional level of protection that has the potential of proving you a lifetime anti-staining warranty. All you have to do is spare 20 or some minutes of your time and some effort.